WONDERS OF THE WORLD


THE PAPAL BASILICA OF SAINT PETER

The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter, officially known in Italian as Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano and commonly known as Saint Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. Saint Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. While it is neither the official mother church of the Roman Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Pope as Bishop of Rome, Saint Peter's is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites. It has been described as "holding a unique position in the Christian world" and as "the greatest of all churches of Christendom".

In Roman Catholic tradition, the basilica is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to tradition, the first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St. Peter's since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the 4th century. Construction of the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on 18 April 1506 and was completed on 18 November 1626.

St. Peter's is famous as a place of pilgrimage, for its liturgical functions and for its historical associations. It is associated with the papacy, with the Counter-reformation and with numerous artists, most significantly Michelangelo. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age. Contrary to popular misconception, Saint Peter's is not a cathedral, as it is not the seat of a bishop. It is properly termed a papal basilica. The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral church of Rome.

Click on the link, "The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter", for the accompanying video clip.



THE BANAUE RICE TERRACES

The Banaue Rice Terraces are 2000-year old terraces that were carved into the mountains of Ifugao in the Philippines by ancestors of the indigenous people. The Rice Terraces are commonly referred to by Filipinos as the "Eighth Wonder of the World". It is commonly thought that the terraces were built with minimal equipment, largely by hand.

The terraces are located approximately 1500 meters (5000 ft) above sea level and cover 10,360 square kilometers (about 4000 square miles) of mountainside. They are fed by an ancient irrigation system from the rainforests above the terraces. It is said that if the steps are put end to end it would encircle half the globe.

Locals to this day still plant rice and vegetables on the terraces, although more and more younger Ifugaos do not find farming appealing, often opting for the more lucrative hospitality industry generated by the Rice Terraces. The result is the gradual erosion of the characteristic "steps", which need constant reconstruction and care. In 2010 a further problem was drought, with the terraces drying up completely in March of that year.

Aside from the Banaue Rice terraces there are 4 other similar terraces, the Batad Rice Terraces, Mayoyao Rice Terraces in Mayoyao, Hapao rice terraces and Kiangan rice terraces. The Batad rice terraces are located in Barangay Batad in Banaue, these terraces shaped resembles an amphitheatre. The Mayoyao rice terraces are for a rice variety called tinawon, a rare type of organic rice which are grown in red and white variety in these terraces. The Hapao rice terraces are located in Hungduan, these terraces are stone-walled and date back to 650 AD. The Kiangan rice terraces is similarly located in Banaue, here they grow the rice varieties of nagacadan and julungan.

Click on the link, "The Banaue Rice Terraces", for the accompanying video clip.



THE STATUE OF LIBERTY

The Statue of Liberty is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886. The statue, a gift to the United States from the people of France, is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue has become an icon of freedom and of the United States.

The statue was constructed in France, shipped overseas in crates, and assembled on the completed pedestal on what was then called Bedloe's Island. The statue's completion was marked by New York's first ticker-tape parade and a dedication ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland.

The statue is situated in Upper New York Bay on Liberty Island, south of Ellis Island. Both islands were ceded by New York to the federal government in 1800. As agreed in an 1834 compact between New York and New Jersey that set the state border at the bay's midpoint, the original islands remain New York territory despite their location on the New Jersey side of the state line.

Click on the link, "The Statue of Liberty", for the accompanying video clip.



AURORA BOREALIS (THE NORTHERN LIGHTS)

An aurora is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions. If you have ever seen an aurora light up the night sky with its shifting waterfall of colors, you've seen one of the most amaz...ing shows nature can offer. When charged particles from the magnetosphere collide with atoms in the earth's upper atmosphere, they absorb extra energy that is expressed as light. As the sun causes hydrogen and helium to fuse, protons and electrons are shot into space. Known as the solar wind, this stream of particles blows past the earth. As they blow past the earth, the earth's lines of magnetism draw the particles toward the north and south magnetic poles, where these lines converge.

When the particles arrive in the ionosphere, they collide with gas atoms and emit light. The color of light they emit depends upon the type of gas the particles collide with. Light that is dominated by emissions from atomic oxygen causes a greenish and dark-red glow. Blue light is a result of atomic nitrogen, while purple light is the result of molecular nitrogen. Many other colors can also be seen.

Auroras occur in both hemispheres, and the aurora in the northern hemisphere is called the aurora borealis, or northern lights. The aurora borealis gets its name from the mythical Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for north wind, Boreas. The aurora borealis can often be seen on the northern horizon; it frequently appears as a reddish glow, as if the sun were rising in the wrong direction.

The aurora borealis is most often seen during the months of September, October, March, and April. Fairbanks, Alaska, is known as one of the best places in the world to see the aurora borealis. It usually appears in the sky as light green, light yellow, and pink wisps, curtains, pillars, pinwheels, and haloes of light that seem to wave and vibrate.

Auroras seen near the magnetic pole may be high overhead, but from farther away, they illuminate the northern horizon as a greenish glow or sometimes a faint red, as if the Sun were rising from an unusual direction. The aurora borealis most often occurs near the equinoxes. In Europe, in the Middle Ages, the auroras were commonly believed a sign from God.

Click on the link, "Aurora Borealis", for the accompanying video clip.



THE TREVI FOUNTAIN

The Trevi Fountain is a fountain in the Trevi rione in Rome, Italy. Standing 26 metres (85.3 feet) high and 20 metres (65.6 feet) wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. The fountain at the junction of three roads (tre vie) marks the terminal point of the "modern" Acqua Vergine, the revived Aqua Virgo, one of the ancient aqueducts that supplied water to ancient Rome.

A traditional legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome. Among those who are unaware that the "three coins" of Three Coins in the Fountain were thrown by three different individuals, a reported current interpretation is that two coins will lead to a new romance and three will ensure either a marriage or divorce. Another reported version of this legend is that it is lucky to throw three coins with one's right hand over one's left shoulder into the Trevi Fountain.

An estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain each day. The money has been used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome's needy And other charitable organizations. However, there are regular attempts to steal coins from the fountain.

The Trevi fountain is featured in Respighi's symphonic pictures Fontane di Roma, and was the setting for an iconic scene in Federico Fellini's film La dolce vita starring Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni. The fountain was turned off and draped in black in honor of Mastroianni after the actor's death in 1996. The fountain is used for some scenes in the 1953 film Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Part of the fountain is replicated at the Italy Pavilion at Epcot in Walt Disney World, USA.

Click on the link, "The Trevi Fountain", for the accompanying video clip.



MOUNT RUSHMORE

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, in the United States. Sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and later by his son Lincoln Borglum, Mount Rushmore features 60-foot (18 m) sculptures of the heads of former United States presidents (in order from left to right) George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The entire memorial covers 1,278.45 acres (5.17 km2) and is 5,725 feet (1,745 m) above sea level.

South Dakota historian Doane Robinson is credited with conceiving the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the Black Hills region of South Dakota in order to promote tourism in the region. Robinson's initial idea was to sculpt the Needles; however, Gutzon Borglum rejected the Needles site and chose the larger Mount Rushmore. Borglum also decided the sculpture should have a more national focus, and chose the four presidents whose likenesses would be carved into the mountain.

After securing federal funding, construction on the memorial began in 1927, and the presidents' faces were completed between 1934 and 1939. Upon Gutzon Borglum's death in March 1941, his son Lincoln Borglum took over construction. Although the initial concept called for each president to be depicted from head to waist, lack of funding forced construction to end in October 1941.

The U.S. National Park Service took control of the memorial in 1933, while it was still under construction, and manages the memorial to the present day. It attracts approximately two million people annually.

Click on the link, "Mount Rushmore", for the accompanying video clip.



THE EIFFEL TOWER

The Eiffel Tower is a puddle iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris. Built in 1889, it has become both a global icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest building in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; millions of people ascend it every year. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, the tower was built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair.

The tower stands 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to assume the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. However, due to the addition, in 1957, of the antenna atop the Eiffel Tower, it is now taller than the Chrysler Building. Not including broadcast antennas, it is the second-tallest structure in France, after the Millau Viaduct.

The tower has three levels for visitors. Tickets can be purchased to ascend, by stairs or lift, to the first and second levels. The walk from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level. The third and highest level is accessible only by elevator. Both the first and second levels feature restaurants.

The tower has become the most prominent symbol of both Paris and France, often in the establishing shot of films set in the city.

Click on the link, "The Eiffel Tower", for the accompanying video clip.



THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA

The Leaning Tower of Pisa or simply the Tower of Pisa (Torre di Pisa) is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa. It is situated behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa's Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) after the Cathedral and the Baptistry.

The height of the tower is 55.86 m (183.27 ft) from the ground on the low side and 56.70 m (186.02 ft) on the high side. The width of the walls at the base is 4.09 m (13.42 ft) and at the top 2.48 m (8.14 ft). Its weight is estimated at 14,500 metric tons (16,000 short tons). The tower has 296 steps; the seventh floor has two fewer steps on the north-facing staircase. Prior to restoration work performed between 1990 and 2001, the tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but the tower now leans at about 3.99 degrees. This means that the top of the tower is displaced horizontally 3.9 metres (12 ft 10 in) from where it would be if the structure were perfectly vertical.

A popular tourist activity is to pose for photographs pretending to "hold up" the leaning tower and preventing it from falling. The illusion is created through the principle of forced perspective.

Construction of the tower occurred in three stages across 177 years. Work on the ground floor of the white marble campanile began on August 8, 1173, during a period of military success and prosperity. This ground floor is a blind arcade articulated by engaged columns with classical Corinthian capitals.

The tower began to sink after construction had progressed to the second floor in 1178. This was due to a mere three-metre foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil, a design that was flawed from the beginning. Construction was subsequently halted for almost a century, because the Republic of Pisa was almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca and Florence. This allowed time for the underlying soil to settle. Otherwise, the tower would almost certainly have toppled. In 1198 clocks were temporarily installed on the third floor of the unfinished construction.

Click on the link, "The Leaning Tower of Pisa", for the accompanying video clip.



THE WAILING (WESTERN) WALL OF JERUSALEM

The Western Wall is sometimes known as the Wailing Wall or Kotel HaMaaravi. It is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. The wall is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple's courtyard, and is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism outside of the Temple Mount itself. Though the Wailing Wall has been considered the holiest of places on earth for Jews, it has also been the source of grief and war.

Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, having been constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great. The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards. The Western Wall refers not only to the exposed section facing a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, but also to the sections concealed behind structures running along the whole length of the Temple Mount, such as the Little Western Wall–a 25 ft (8 m) section in the Muslim Quarter.

The Wailing Wall had stood for close to 500 years. Herod began rebuilding and adding on to the temple, and the total work was not finished until fifty years later. The temple itself was destroyed by the Romans only a few years after its completion.

It is thought by Jews to be the most sacred of places, because the temple itself was thought to be the place where God resides on earth. Praying at the Wailing Wall signifies being in the presence of the Divine. Jews from all countries, and as well as tourists of other religious backgrounds, come to pray at the wall, where it is said one immediately has the “ear of god.” Those who cannot pray at the wall can send prayers or ask for the Kaddish to be said for departed loved ones. Prayers sent in are placed into the cracks of the walls and are called tzetzels. There is usually a small charge for this service.

Click on the link, "The Wailing Wall of Jerusalem", for the accompanying video clip.



THE COLOSSEUM

The Colosseum is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire. It is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering. Occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum, its construction started in 72 AD under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 AD under Titus, with further modifications being made during Domitian's reign (81–96).

Capable of seating 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine. Although in the 21st century it stays partially ruined because of damage caused by devastating earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome.

It is one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions and still has close connections with the Roman Catholic Church, as each Good Friday the Pope leads a torchlit "Way of the Cross" procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum.

Click on the link, "The Colosseum", for the accompanying video clip.



RAPA NUI (EASTER ISLAND)

Rapa Nui, a territorial province of Chile more commonly known as Easter Island, is one of the most isolated pieces of land on earth. Located over 3500 kilometers west of the Chilean coast and over 2000 kilometers (1243 miles) east of the Pitcairn Islands.

Rapa Nui's 163.6 square kilometers (63.2 square miles) comprise what is considered to be the easternmost habitable place in the collection of Pacific Ocean islands known as the Polynesian Triangle; a geo-cultural expanse that is defined to the north by Hawaii and to the west by Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Rapa Nui is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian triangle. A special territory of Chile that was annexed in 1888. It is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapanui people. It is a World Heritage Site with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park. Rapa Nui is claimed to be the most remote inhabited island in the world.

Click on the link, "Rapa Nui", for the accompanying video clip.



MACHU PICCHU

Machu Picchu is a pre-Columbian 15th-century Inca site located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, which is 80 kilometres (50 mi) northwest of Cusco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas", it is perhaps the most familiar icon of the Inca World.

The Incas started building the "estate" around AD 1400, but abandoned it as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of what the structures originally looked like.

By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored. The restoration work continues to this day. Since the site was never known to the Spanish during their conquest, it is highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site. Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll. Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. These are located in what is known by archaeologists as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu.

Click on the link, "Machu Picchu", for the accompanying video clip.



THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in northern China, built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups. Several walls have been built since the 5th century BC that are referred to collectively as the Great Wall, which has been rebuilt and maintained from the 5th century BC through the 16th century.

One of the most famous is the wall built between 220–206 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Little of that wall remains; the majority of the existing wall was built during the Ming Dynasty. The Great Wall stretches from Shanhaiguan in the east, to Lop Lake in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia.

The most comprehensive archaeological survey, using advanced technologies, has concluded that the entire Great Wall, with all of its branches, stretches for 8,851.8 km (5,500.3 mi). This is made up of 6,259.6 km (3,889.5 mi) sections of actual wall, 359.7 km (223.5 mi) of trenches and 2,232.5 km (1,387.2 mi) of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers.

Click on the link, "The Great Wall of China", for the accompanying video clip.



THE TAJ MAHAL

The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra, India. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal is widely recognized as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage."

Taj Mahal is the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combine...s elements from Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar component of the Taj Mahal, it is actually an integrated complex of structures.

The construction began around 1632, employing thousands of artisans and craftsmen. The principal mausoleum was completed in 1648 and the surrounding buildings and garden were finished five years later. The construction of the Taj Mahal was entrusted to a board of architects under imperial supervision, including Abd ul-Karim Ma'mur Khan, Makramat Khan, and Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. Lahauri is generally considered to be the principal designer.

Soon after the Taj Mahal's completion, Shah Jahan was deposed by his son Aurangzeb and put under house arrest at nearby Agra Fort. Upon Shah Jahan's death, Aurangzeb buried him in the mausoleum next to his wife.

By the late 19th century, parts of the buildings had fallen badly into disrepair. During the time of the Indian rebellion of 1857, the Taj Mahal was defaced by British soldiers and government officials, who chiselled out precious stones and lapis lazuli from its walls. At the end of the 19th century, British viceroy Lord Curzon ordered a sweeping restoration project, which was completed in 1908. He also commissioned the large lamp in the interior chamber, modelled after one in a Cairo mosque. During this time the garden was remodelled with British-style lawns that are still in place today.

Click on the link, "The Taj Mahal", for the accompanying video clip.



THE FORBIDDEN CITY

The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. For almost 500 years, it served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government. Built in 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms and covers 720,000 m2 (7,800,000 sq ft).

The palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. Since 1925, the Forbidden City has been under the charge of the Palace Museum, whose extensive collection of artwork and artifacts were built upon the imperial collections of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

The Forbidden City is the world's largest surviving palace complex and covers 72 ha (178 acres). It is a rectangle 961 metres (3,153 ft) from north to south and 753 metres (2,470 ft) from east to west. It consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms. The Forbidden City was designed to be the centre of the ancient, walled city of Beijing. It is enclosed in a larger, walled area called the Imperial City. The Imperial City is, in turn, enclosed by the Inner City; to its south lies the Outer City.

Click on the link, "The Forbidden City", for the accompanying video clip.



CHRIST THE REDEEMER

Christ the Redeemer is a statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world and the world's 5th largest statue of Jesus Christ. It is 39.6 metres (130 ft) tall, including its 9.5 metres (31 ft) pedestal, and 30 metres (98 ft) wide. It weighs 635 tonnes (625 long,700 short tons), and is located at the peak of the 700-metre (2,300 ft) Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city. A symbol of Christianity, the statue has become an icon of Rio and Brazil. It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, and was constructed between 1922 and 1931.

The idea for erecting a large statue atop Corcovado was first suggested in the mid-1850s, when Catholic priest Pedro Maria Boss requested financing from Princess Isabel to build a large religious monument. Princess Isabel did not think much of the idea and it was dismissed in 1889, when Brazil became a republic with laws mandating the separation of church and state. Local engineer Heitor da Silva Costa designed the statue; it was sculpted by French sculptor Paul Landowski.

A group of engineers and technicians studied Landowski's submissions and the decision was made to build the s tructure out of reinforced concrete instead of steel, more suitable for the cross-shaped statue. The outer layers are soapstone, chosen for its enduring qualities and ease of use. Construction took nine years, from 1922 to 1931 and cost the equivalent of US$250,000 ($3,068,097 in 2011). The monument was opened on October 12, 1931.

The statue was struck by lightning during a violent electrical storm on Sunday, February 10, 2008 and suffered some damage on the fingers, head and eyebrows. A restoration effort was put in place by the Rio de Janeiro state government and archdiocese to replace some of the outer soapstone layers and repair the lightning rods installed on the statue.

On April 15, 2010 graffiti was sprayed on the statue's head and right arm. Mayor Eduardo Paes called the act "a crime against the nation" and vowed to jail the vandals, even offering a reward of R$ 10,000 for any information that might lead to an arrest. The Military Police eventually identified house painter Paulo Souza dos Santos as the suspect of the act of vandalism. On July 7, 2007, in Lisbon (Estádio da Luz), Christ the Redeemer was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a list compiled by the Swiss-based The New Open World Corporation.

Click on the link, "Christ The Redeemer", for the accompanying video clip.



STONEHENGE

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 2.0 miles (3.2 km) west of Amesbury and 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthwor...ks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. It is at the centre of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.

Archaeologists have believed that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 BC. One recent theory however, has suggested that the first stones were not erected until 2400–2200 BC, whilst another suggests that bluestones may have been erected at the site as early as 3000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC.

The site and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1986. It is a national legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument. Stonehenge is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage, while the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust. Archaeological evidence found by the Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2008 indicates that Stonehenge could possibly have served as a burial ground from its earliest beginnings. The dating of cremated remains found on the site indicate that deposits contain human bone material from as early as 3000 BC, when the initial ditch and bank were first dug.

Click on the link, "Stonehenge", for the accompanying video clip.



TERRACOTTA WARRIORS OF XI'AN

The Terracotta Warriors is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210-209 BC and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife.

The figures, dating from 3rd century BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers in Lintong District, Xi'an, Shaanxi province, near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor.

The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. Other terracotta non-military figures were also found in other pits and they include officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.

The terracotta figures are life-sized. They vary in height, uniform and hairstyle in accordance with rank. Most originally held real weapons such as spears, swords, or crossbows. The figures were also originally painted with bright pigments, variously coloured in pink, red, green, blue, black, brown, white and lilac. The coloured lacquer finish, individual facial features, and actual weapons used in producing these figures created a realistic appearance. Most of the original weapons were thought to have been looted shortly after the creation of the army, or have rotted away, and the colour coating has flaked off or greatly faded. However, their existence serves as a testament to the amount of labor and skill involved in their construction.

Click on the link, "Terracotta Warriors of Xi'an", for the accompanying video clip.



ROME'S PIAZZA NAVONA

Piazza Navona is a city square in Rome, Italy. It is built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, built in 1st century AD, and follows the form of the open space of the stadium. The ancient Romans came there to watch the agones ("games"), ...and hence it was known as 'Circus Agonalis' (competition arena). It is believed that over time the name changed to ' in agone' to 'navone' and eventually to 'navona'.

It features important sculptural and architectural creations: in the center stands the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers (1651) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Piazza Navona has two additional fountains: at the southern end is the Fontana del Moro with a basin and four Tritons sculpted by Giacomo della Porta (1575) to which, in 1673, Bernini added a statue of a Moor, or African, wrestling with a dolphin, and at the northern end is the Fountain of Neptune (1574) created by Giacomo della Porta. The statue of Neptune in the northern fountain, the work of Antonio Della Bitta, was added in 1878 to make that fountain more symmetrical with La Fontana del Moro in the south.

During its history, the piazza has hosted theatrical events and other ephemeral activities.

Click on the link, "Rome's Piazza Navona", for the accompanying video clip.



GRAND CANYON SKYWALK

The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a transparent horseshoe-shaped cantilever bridge and tourist attraction in Arizona near the Colorado River on the edge of a side canyon in the Grand Canyon West area of the main canyon. USGS topographic maps show... the elevation at the Skywalk's location as 4,770 ft (1,450 m) and the elevation of the Colorado River in the base of the canyon as 1,160 ft (350 m), and they show that the height of the precisely vertical drop directly under the skywalk is between 500 ft (150 m) and 800 ft (240 m).

Commissioned and owned by the Hualapai Indian tribe, it was unveiled March 20, 2007, and opened to the general public on March 28, 2007. It is accessed via the Grand Canyon West Airport terminal or a 120-mile (190 km) drive from Las Vegas, which includes a 10-mile (16 km) stretch of dirt road which is currently under development. The Skywalk is east of Meadview and north of Peach Springs with Kingman being the closest major city.

According to Hualapai officials, the cost of the Skywalk was $31 million. Future plans for the Grand Canyon Skywalk complex include a museum, movie theater, VIP lounge, gift shop, and several restaurants including a high-end restaurant called The Skywalk Café where visitors will be able to dine outdoors at the canyon's rim. The Skywalk is the cornerstone of a larger plan by the Hualapai tribe, which it hopes will be the catalyst for a 9,000-acre (36 km2) development to be called Grand Canyon West; it would open up a 100-mile (160 km) stretch along the canyon's South Rim and include hotels, restaurants, a golf course, and a cable car to ferry visitors from the canyon rim to the Colorado River, which has been previously inaccessible.

Click on the link, "Grand Canyon Skywalk", for the accompanying video clip.



PETRA

Petra is a historical and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma'an that is famous for its rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited tourist attraction. It lies on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.

The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It was described as "a rose-red city half as old as time" in a Newdigate Prize-winning poem by John William Burgon. UNESCO has described it as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage". Petra was chosen by the BBC as one of "the 40 places you have to see before you die".

Click on the link, "Petra", for the accompanying video clip.



PANTHEON

The Pantheon is a building in Rome, Italy, commissioned by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome, and rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian in about 126 AD. The nearly-contemporary writer (2nd–3rd centuries AD), Cassius Dio, specu...lated that the name comes either from the statues of so many gods placed around this building, or else from the resemblance of the dome to the heavens.

The building is circular with a portico of three ranks of huge granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered, concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.

The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres (142 ft). It is one of the best preserved of all Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic church dedicated to "St. Mary and the Martyrs" but informally known as "Santa Maria Rotonda"; the square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda.

Click on the link, "Pantheon", for the accompanying video clip.



NIAGARA FALLS

The Niagara Falls, located on the Niagara River draining Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, is the collective name for the Horseshoe Falls and the adjacent American Falls along with the comparatively small Bridal Veil Falls, which combined form the highest flow rate of any waterfalls in the world and has a vertical drop of more than 50 meters.

Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfalls (vertical height along with flow rate) in North America. Niagara Falls forms the international border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of New York, also forming the southern end of the Niagara Gorge.

The falls are located 17 miles (27 km) north-northwest of Buffalo, New York and 75 miles (121 km) south-southeast of Toronto, between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, New York.

Click on the link, "Niagara Falls", for the accompanying video clip.